A proposed copper-nickel mine on the Iron Range is one step closer to reality.

Thursday, PolyMet received notice from the U.S. Forest Service that the land exchange between the agency and the mine is set to close later this month.

The Forest Service originally signed-off on the land swap in January 2017. But it was stalled when environmental groups filed four lawsuits in federal court, to stop the process.

The U.S. House passed legislation in November that would push the land deal forward, and nullify the lawsuits. 

Similar legislation has advanced in the Senate and could pass as early as Monday.

Nancy Norr for Jobs for Minnesotans says, "In our view, the U.S. Forest Service has made absolutely the right decision that this is in the public's best interest to move forward with this exchange."

The land-exchange would see proposed copper-nickel mine PolyMet trading nearly 6,900 acres of private land within the Superior National Forest to the Forest Service in exchange for 6,500  acres of land at the mine site.

Norr says, "it has qualities that I think are rich for both recreational and wildlife habitat, in exchange for the surface land of properties that PolyMet already had ownership of the mineral rights."

While Norr believes this title transfer would allow economic and job growth in the state, Marc Fink, an attorney for the Center For Biological Diversity feels the proposal is out-of-line.   

"We've always been worried about the land exchange. We think these lands should stay in the hands of the forest service. and if it did this mine would not be permitted, says Fink who currently works on two of the four lawsuits filed from environmental groups, concerned about the mining project. "We think this mine is just a terrible proposal and is the biggest threat to the lake superior watershed and probably a generation. The environmental problems with it are numerous." 

While some like Fink hoped to stop the exchange process. "We were hoping it would be put on hold until the cases were resolved."

Others lobbied to state and federal lawmakers, hoping to speed it up.   Norr says, "it's a very critical step towards the ultimate PolyMet mine project being up and running and creating hundreds of direct jobs and another hundred of indirect jobs."

Though this is a critical step in the PolyMet project, it's not the final step. PolyMet still needs to obtain a number of permits to facilitate a mine. including a permit to mine from the state and Army Corps. of Engineers.

The exact closing date for the land exchange is slated for June 28.  Critics of the land exchange are still vowing to fight this in court. 


PolyMet received noticed Thursday from the U.S. Forest Service that the land exchange between the agency and PolyMet will close June 28.

Title transfer is central to development of Minnesota's first copper-nickel-precious metals mine, a PolyMet news release said. 
 

“This administrative exchange gives us exclusive control of the land over our ore body and provides a secure foundation on which we can complete project financing and permitting, build the project, create hundreds of sustainable jobs, and bring these essential metals to market." - Jon Cherry, president and CEO, PolyMet

The transfer of approximately 6,650 acres of federal lands to PolyMet consolidates surface land and mineral ownership in and around the NorthMet ore body, near an area historically used for mining and associated infrastructure.

Upon title transfer, PolyMet’s total surface ownership rights will be approximately 19,000 contiguous acres (30 square miles) of land including the land at the mine and processing sites, the transportation corridor connecting those sites, and surrounding buffer lands.
 

“The land exchange will not greenlight the PolyMet mining project, but rather will ratify what the Forest Service already determined during its exhaustive environmental review and public input process – that the land exchange is in the public’s best interest.” - Nancy Norr, Chair, Jobs for Minnesotans